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Locust Swarms Begin Invading West Africa

Help Needed As Locust Swarms Begin Invading West Africa, UN Agency Says

The first desert locust swarms have moved into several West African countries, posing a threat to crop production in a broad swath of land stretching from the Atlantic coast in Mauritania to Chad, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Mauritania, Senegal and Mali are most threatened by the swarms coming from their spring breeding areas in northwestern Africa, with many more expected also in Niger and Chad in the coming weeks, the agency warned.

"A dramatic increase in locusts could threaten crop production during the coming months," FAO said. "Additional international aid is urgently needed to supplement the major efforts already made, in particular by the countries concerned, and to prevent the situation from developing into a plague."

Due to the size and number of the current locust infestations, effective control can only be carried out by conventional pesticides, according to FAO. More than 4 million hectares have been treated so far in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania.

FAO said that to respond better to future emergencies, longer-term support is also needed to strengthen national capacities in early warning, early reaction and research within the agency's Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases.

The costs of the last locust plague in 1987-89 amounted to more than $300 million, with control operations carried out in 28 countries.

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